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Sebastian Alonso Juan was an indigenous and land rights defender of Yulchen, Huehuetenango. Along with many members of indigenous Chuj and Q'anjob' local communities, the human rights defender was leading efforts to repeal the company Promoción y Desarrollos Hídricos SA, responsible for the construction of hydroelectric project Pojom I and Pojom II. Indigenous peoples in the area have denounced the environmental destruction created by these megaprojects as well as the failure of authorities to consult indigenous peoples before granting construction permits, consistently with their right to free, prior and informed consent guaranteed by ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Guatemala are subjected to death threats, physical attacks, acts of harassment, surveillance, stigmatisation, judicial harassment, arbitrary detention, forced disappearance and killings. Many of the violations are carried out by clandestine security structures and illegal groups. The exceptionally high level of impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators increases the risk exponentially for HRDs.

A serious issue is the unfair use of criminal proceedings in order to prevent HRDs from carrying out their legitimate human rights activities. Many criminal proceedings are launched by private companies (often backed by European and North American governments) related to the mining sector and the construction of dams, spuriously accusing HRDs of crimes such as acts of terrorism, usurpation of land, kidnappings and others. As part of the criminalisation process, campaigns of defamation and stigmatisation have been carried out by both state and non-state actors, particularly transnational companies and right-wing media publications. State authorities continue to publish statements and press releases in which they publicly incriminate HRDs on unverified charges.